Katy and I recently returned from a four-day trip to Savannah to celebrate our one-year anniversary. Our short jaunt in Georgia's 275-year-old founding city was a welcome respite from the normal routines of life. It came conveniently and poignantly after a weekend where I participated in the wedding of one of my good friends. At his request, I sang "Amazing Grace" just before he kissed his new bride, reminding those gathered that their union is made possible and will be sustained only by God's willingness to look past their faults individually and their ability to do the same for one another.
Before Katy and I said our vows, weddings were a bore. For the past year, they've been a blast, as we've quietly renewed our commitment to our journey as we've seen friends begin theirs. Summer has just begun, and more weddings are to come. That means a lot of things - more mushy reminders of our still-young love, not to mention loads of great food.
Speaking of that, here's a short summary of our "Savanniversary," an adventure that was marked - as any good vacation is - by unconstrained gastronomic indulgence. If you're heading to Savannah, here's an ideal menu:
Experts say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Having grown up on Pop-Tarts and cereal, I doubted the veracity of the "experts'" arrogant consensus. After going to Savannah, I have to say that I've come around. If breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day, it can be the most fun.
-Savannah Coffee House Cafe - On our first morning, we left our (Pricelined) riverview room at the Hyatt Regency and headed south on Bull Street, through one of Savannah's 21 town squares and around some road construction to end up at Savannah Coffee House Cafe. Interestingly enough, our waitress from the previous night, who supplied us with our ribs from Tony Roma's on Bay Street, greeted us from behind the counter. After we stated the obvious connection from last night, she hooked me up with a heavenly raspberry mocha muffin. Katy opted for an apple fritter, which tasted like a glazed funnel cake with no powdered sugar. The coffees we ordered were great as well, and they even offered to top us off when we asked for a to-go cup for our walk back to the hotel.
-Express Cafe and Bakery - SCHC would be hard to top, but the next morning, we went a different route, heading west on Bay Street before turning south from the River onto Barnard Street, where we found the Express Cafe and Bakery at the Barnard/Broughton intersection. We had noticed it the day before on one of many shopping excursions. We crisscrossed the downtown streets so much, I literally had them memorized east to west. Express Cafe has a goose on their sign, which really attracted Katy. Upping the "cuteness" factor, their OPEN sign said, "Come on in, and see what the goose is cookin'." How could we not?
Apparently, the goose is a very good chef, at least with breakfast food. Katy's warmed croissant filled with strawberry preserves and cream cheese gave us a nice introduction to the bird's vast culinary repertoire. My cinnamon raisin bagel was less sensational, although still very good. We both put in an order for spiced new potatoes, which were deliciously prepared. The coffee was good, and the melty, homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookie we ordered to go was even better. In a gesture of smugness, I sneered and waved the cookie proudly at Paula Deen's overcrowded restaurant as we walked by.
Midday was a time for safe meals with adventurous twists. We ate on River Street near the hotel both days after trips to the nearby Tybee Island beaches. As a rule, everything is more expensive on River Street, but we had great access to it from our hotel. The Hyatt Regency, though reviled by some because of it's lack of historic charm, has an elevator that spits guests right out onto the cobblestoned thoroughfare lining the Savannah River. Watch out for trolleys and crowds of tourists. And here's a tip: Walk on the sidewalk nearest the river and look back at the shops and restaurants. You'll have a better view and keep from stumbling over candy-toting kids and photo-snapping families.
-Boar's Head Grill & Tavern - Aside from the waiter who told us all about his sailboat and his daughter's unorthodox methods of using the restroom in the ocean waters, everything at the Boar's Head was quite appetizing. We shared a huge burger and fries and bought a bowl of black-eyed pea and ham soup, which was what drew us into the restaurant in the first place. It shattered our expectations in its presentation: In the bowl of soup, not a pea was to be found. But it also went far beyond the taste I anticipated. It was definitely worth the stop, and the restaurant itself had a historic pub decor.
-Huey's on the River - Recommended by our Frommer's book, Huey's was billed as a cajun haven. In keeping with that theme, a fried oyster po'boy seemed like the way to go for me. Katy indulged her craving for fried green tomatoes, which she ate on a muffaletta with some olive spread.
Tony Roma's ribs were our only meal from a restaurant chain, and we decided that it didn't count since that restaurant is mostly found in other states, and I had never eaten there. We went with local favorites for our other two dinners.
-Masato of Japan - Another great thing that came out of our Boar's Head lunch - a recommendation for Masato, a Japanese hibachi restaurant on the south side of Savannah's Abercorn Street near the mall. Our waiter praised Masato's steak and other intangibles. Apparently, a chef there named "Duck" gives out an endless string of sake shots to semi-alcoholics like our waiter. We went for the steak and sat with a Pakistani family celebrating their daughter's graduation. Our chef was from Bali, and his name was Pu, like Winnie the Pooh, he said. Pu makes a mean filet mignon. I don't think I've ever been that full. With Pu's help and despite a less-than-romantic atmosphere, our anniversary dinner was very laid-back and extremely enjoyable.
-Vinnie Van GoGo's - Don't try to eat in Savannah after 10 p.m. Apparently, the "Hostess City" has not gotten the memo that some people like to eat out later than five-year-old kids go to bed. Our search on our final night in town took us to three restaurants that said they were closed. We finally made it to Vinnie Van GoGo's, a pizza place in Savannah's City Market shopping area. The pizza reminded me of Mellow Mushroom. Luckily we had cash, because Vinnie didn't accept credit cards.
After Vinnie's we hit up Lulu's Chocolate Bar on MLK Blvd. Nothing better than truffles to go. I particularly enjoyed the chocolate truffle with chili powder.
You'll be happy to know that we're both alive and well. A few pounds heavier maybe, but we'll work it off as we get back to the bustle of our daily routines. We're still astounded that we're blessed enough to have the luxury of a Savanniversary extravaganza. Our bellies - and our hearts - are overflowing.
Photos (from top):
-Obligatory beach shot;
-Flowers at St. John's cathedral;
-Rubbing my cookie in Paula Deen's face. You'll have to look just above the cookie to see the sign for "The Lady & Sons," her perennially crowded restaurant;
-Boar's Head looks out at the Savannah River, where ships make their way toward the nation's fastest-growing port;
-St. John's Cathedral;
-All photos Copyright Trevor Williams, 2008.